de Le Cuona: Rooted in Nature Panel Talk How to live beautifully and sustainably with a palette of natural materials was the topic of debate at the Rooted in Nature panel talk at September’s London Design Festival. Hosted by Bernie De Le Cuona at de Le Cuona’s flagship showroom on Pimlico Road, the event was chaired by Sarah Spiteri, Editorial Director of the Future magazine portfolio. Joining Bernie on the panel was Sebastian Cox, creator of furniture that’s designed and made with a nature first perspective, and Edward Bulmer, the interior designer, and natural paint pioneer. The talk focused on how natural materials can be used to create sustainably beautiful homes and began with the revelation that all three panellists grew up on farms. A common genesis that gave each a deep love of the earth and the natural world. All three agreed that the innate beauty of products made with natural materials comes from their perfectly natural imperfections; the knots in wood showing the life of the tree it came from, the texture of natural paint, and the slubby imperfections of natural linen fabric – all of which, in Bernie’s words, are not faults, “it’s actually better [than synthetic, perfectly uniform products] because you can see how the materials grew giving each product real character.” Edward explained how he believes that using natural paints enhances a room as “the inherent characteristics of the natural materials seem to understand the imperfections of the surfaces they live on.” Sebastian added, “we live in a world where we want the easiest life possible, however, we need to reframe these imperfections as opportunities to interact with these products.” Bernie, Sebastian, and Edward lead the way in this. Bernie explained that when she began her business 30 years ago, she was a lone voice, but kept going because she was passionate about the need for natural, ethically sourced textiles. Edward agreed, explaining that after years of working on panels and pressure groups he learned that “the only thing that happens is what we can do ourselves and if you do it right it might catch on.” Interest has indeed begun to grow in sustainable and natural products, but the panel warned against taking a ‘natural’ label at face value. As Bernie explained, “I have witnessed first-hand how many chemicals go into something that can be sold as a natural linen.” How, then, can people be sure of what they’re buying? Certification is one route, such as the GOTS certified organic linen collection that de Le Cuona has created, but Sebastian warned that not all small producers can invest in the cost of certification. Edward talked about how not all products list their ingredients and how important he felt it was that all paint brands listed theirs on the tin, “you need to know what you’re putting into your home”. All agreed it was important for customers to feel emboldened to ask questions – what’s it made of, where were the ingredients sourced from, and where was it made? And finally, be open to learning. There’s a lot of information out there if you choose to look. What is the cost difference between ethically sourced, truly natural products? Sebastian explains “my view is that everything else is too cheap, we’re not expensive!” Creating something that is ethically and sustainably produced is going to cost more to make than a product that uses cheap, unsustainable raw ingredients made in unethical ways. Bernie advises, “We all need to buy less and to buy better.” With all three panellists creating beautiful, natural, ethically sourced, and thoroughly thought-about products, we can be sure that the future of sustainable products is standing on the shoulders of these interior giants.